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Boydstun

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  1. Merlin, I notice that the words you found of Dagny to James fit well with a line in Francisco's oratory on money: "Money demands of you recognition than men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss---the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery . . . ." Also: "The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Doug, You might have an interest in a couple of philosophic works realistic about assessments of utilities of others and about interpersonal comparisons of utility. “Anyone who breaks my leg or gives me a thousand dollars may be fairly confident of the direction of the impact on me of the action. But one would have to be dotty to hand out exquisite recordings of Bartok’s quartets to random people on the street. Such an action, no matter how well-meant, could plausibly, I am sad to acknowledge, bring about a net reduction in welfare for everyone involved.” (p. 8 of Morality within the Limits of Reason by Russell Hardin) Robert Nozick’s paper “Interpersonal Utility Theory” is included in his book Socratic Puzzles.
  2. . A Rejection of Egoism —Excerpts from this linked article: The first strand in Rand’s move from agent egoism to beneficiary egoism was the thesis that if one does not hold one's own life as the motive and goal of one’s actions (at least indirectly), one is acting in a self-destructive way. The second strand, wound together with the first, is that if one does not hold one’s life as the motive and goal of one’s actions, one is acting in a disintegrated way, and integrated life is better life. . . . The third strand in the cord by which Rand ties beneficiary egoism to agency egoism is the stress she lays on the self-sufficiency of organisms in general and individual humans in particular. . . . In the Strand One section, I interpreted Rand as holding to an egoism in which some right actions are not directly for the actor’s sake, only indirectly so. Directly, they could be for the sake of one not oneself, nonetheless count as egoistic. By this interpretation, Rand’s type of ethical egoism would fall outside Kraut’s exceptionally restrictive definition. “Egoism holds that there is only one person whose good should be the direct object of one’s actions: oneself” (WGW 39). My interpretation of Rand on this point is in some tension with her text that I quoted (AS 1059–60). Further tension is added by other text of Rand’s: “The rational man . . . . recognizes the fact that his own life is the source, not only of all his values, but of his capacity to value. Therefore, the value he grants to others is only a consequence, an extension, a secondary projection of the primary value which is himself.” (VoS 46–47) She goes on, in that 1963 essay, to quote Nathaniel Branden: “The respect and good will that men of self-esteem feel towards other human beings is profoundly egoistic; they feel, in effect: ‘Other men are of value because they are of the same species as myself.’ In revering living entities, they are revering their own life. This is the psychological base of any emotion of sympathy and any feeling of ‘species solidarity’.” (VoS 47) Rand’s contrast of secondary to primary might suggest the contrast of indirect to direct. I think, considering the layout of the psychology to which Rand points, that suggestion should be rejected. Rand in Full —Excerpts from this linked article: Catherine Halsey learns to greatly curtail her personal desires and to devote her efforts to helping others. This she does because she wants to do what is right and because she accepts the idea that selfishness is evil (ET XIII 384). Catherine also accepts the idea, advocated by Toohey (ET XI 342), that selfishness leads to unhappiness. I have been unable to recall or locate any major thinker who advocated this proposition, but it will follow from the premises that happiness requires morality and that selfishness is immoral. Catherine’s success at unselfishness makes her unhappy and resentful. She speaks with her Uncle Ellsworth about it. She acknowledges that he is much brighter than she and that “‘it’s a very big subject, good and evil’” (ET XIII 384). Rand then uses their dialogue to argue the incoherence and pointlessness of absolute unselfishness. Rand’s lead into her case for the goodness of pure selfishness consists of the sensibleness and pleasure of having personal desires (together with having one’s own thoughts and choices) and guiding one’s own actions. (ET XIII 384; GW II 454). We have seen this way of entering the case for egoism before, in the development of Andrei after he meets Kira. After her deep conversation with Uncle Ellsworth, Catherine gets together with Peter Keating. He is feeling dirty because of his testimony against Roark at the court case over the Stoddard Temple. Peter and Catherine reaffirm their love, which is a first-hand personal preference satisfying their own identities. They kiss. “Then he did not think of the Stoddard Temple any longer, and she did not think of good and evil. They did not need to; they felt too clean” (ET XIII 391). This suggests that at least one reason the concept of good and evil is needed is the human potential for betraying egoistic innocence. . . . I should pause over the necessity of intended self-benefit for correct values. Not all of one’s potential selves are worth benefitting. Among those who are, Rand maintains that only potential selves whose every value is intended to benefit themselves hold entirely correct values. “Concern with his own interests is the essence of a moral existence, and . . . man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions. / The actor must always be the beneficiary of his action” (VS ix–x; also OE 46–47). One is a beneficiary in ways other than by one’s resulting positive feelings, because one is a self that is not only feelings. Man’s self is “‘that entity that is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego’” (HR XVIII 737). It is the self—one’s soul—that has thoughts, meaning, will, values, desires, and feeling (GW II 454). Roark loves the buildings he designs not only because of the positive responses they elicit in him. Dagny loves diesel-electric locomotives and the minds that create them not only because of the positive responses they elicit in her. It is not plausible that when she finds that man at the end of the rails, the one for whom she has longed since her youth, she will love him only because of the positive responses he evokes in her. There is, however, a thread of subjectivity in Rand’s conception of value and love and normative selfishness that is puckering up the fabric. In my judgment, that thread is unnecessary and should be removed. Speaking metaphorically, the solemnity of looking at the sky does not come only from the uplift of one’s head (HR V 598). In extreme desire for another person, the other does not recede in importance compared to the desire (GW IX 539). A rational desire to help someone in need is animated not only by “your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and struggle” (AS 1060, emphasis added). Rather, it is enough for rational egoism that, by design, no actions be contrary self-benefit (of a self worth benefitting). The requirement that all actions should intend primarily self-benefit should be dropped. In this way, one can love persons simply for the particular ends-in-themselves that they are. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Those linked articles (and those excerpts just shown) are old one's of mine (2010). I've still some settling out to do, particularly on what are the most liberal restrictions on what could still be called ethical egoism, consistent with the long history and varieties of it in ethical theory.
  3. Eiuol, You can get a single issue of JARS for $23 or a two-issue annual subscription for $36. I gather you are not a subscriber to this journal. Why not? Are you a subscriber to any other journals? The Objective Standard? It is odd to me that people so continually interested in the thought of Ayn Rand, by their posts, do not subscribe to such journals and discuss them here. But what is far more odd to me is the little-to-zero quotations of Rand herself, fiction and nonfiction, I see in these online posting discussions. It’s as if as the decades went by few with a positive response to Rand’s writings cared to continue actually reading Rand and discussing those writings (with exact quotation and citation) in their online discussions supposedly about her philosophy. Claims about what she wrote without backing it up with exact quotation is beer talk. Rand’s writings are not that difficult. To fathom Rand, as for any philosopher (sometimes much more difficult), one should first, second, . . . and last, read Rand. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Eiuol, You asked of Merlin, could he share something of his manuscript, perhaps an outline, so we might discuss that in lieu of the paper itself. That is terrible. His actual work is not worth getting hold of so we readers of it might actually discuss that labor itself? Perhaps you noticed my post of the subheadings of my forthcoming paper on Rand and Descartes. They indicate areas covered in the forthcoming paper. Compared to the paper itself, they are as nothing. If someone said to me, well, instead of reading your paper and then discussing it, let’s discuss the topics named in your subheadings, I wouldn’t give them the time of day.
  4. ~Some Notes on the Concept(s) of Validity in Objectivist Epistemology~ Validity within propositional and predicate logic is generally taken to mean: that merit of argument in which the conclusion cannot be false if the premises are true. We speak also of validity in property titles and in contracts. Kant had much work for a sense of validity in epistemology joining those two senses. He announces in the Preface to the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason that a central component of that work “refers to the objects of pure understanding and is intended to make comprehensible the objective validity of understanding’s a priori concepts” (xvi). That general epistemological sense of objective validity in concepts is useful in application to concepts and propositions in philosophical systems besides Kant’s. In his mature, pragmatic philosophy, Dewey writes: “According to experimental inquiry, the validity of the object of thought depends upon the consequences of the operations which define the object of thought” (1929, 103). Speaking of experiment, Dewey refers to the process “by which the conclusion is reached that such and such a judgment of an object is valid” (ibid., 230). Logical positivist Ayer writes: “In saying that we propose to show ‘how propositions are validated’, we do not of course mean to suggest that all propositions are validated in the same way. On the contrary we lay stress on the fact that the criterion by which we determine the validity of an a priori or analytic proposition is not sufficient to determine the validity of an empirical or synthetic proposition. For it is characteristic of empirical propositions that their validity is not purely formal” (1952, 90). For Ayer one can validate a proposition either by finding it to be analytic or by finding it to be empirically verified. Rand remarked: “Objective validity is determined by reference to the facts of reality. . . . Man cannot know more than he has discovered—and he may not know less than the evidence indicates, if his concepts and definitions are to be objectively valid. / . . . When new evidence confronts him, he has to expand his definitions according to the evidence, if they are to be objectively valid” (ITOE 46). “How does one determine and objective definition valid for all men? It is determined according to the widest context of knowledge available to man on the subjects relevant to the units of a given concept. / . . . An objective definition valid for all men, is one that designates the essential distinguishing characteristic(s) and genus of the existents subsumed under a given concept—according to all the relevant knowledge available at that stage of mankind’s development” (ibid.). Expanding a bit on a point noted by Patrik: In Rand’s philosophy, Peikoff takes validation to be “any process of establishing an idea’s relationship to reality, whether deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, or perceptual self-evidence” (1991, 8). As Peikoff had expressed it in his 1976 lecture series The Philosophy of Objectivism, “validation, in the broad sense includes any process of relating mental contents to the facts of reality. Direct perception . . . is one such process. Proof designates another type of validation. Proof is the process of deriving a conclusion logically from antecedent knowledge” (see further, Peikoff 1991, 118–20, 137–38). Returning to Rand, she further observes “there are such things as invalid concepts, i.e., words that represent attempts to integrate errors, contradictions or false propositions, . . . or words without specific definitions, without referents, which can mean anything to anyone . . . . An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion” (ITOE 49). I think of objectively meaningless concepts as a type of invalid concept. They are a subdivision of that type of error; not every invalid concept is objectively meaningless. Rand constructs an invalid concept man in which his ability to run is taken for his essential characteristic and running entities is taken as genus of the concept (ITOE 71). To better absorb this example, one should imagine that one does not have the other conception and definition of man rational animal, not even implicitly. Try to imagine that for basic adult definition of man one has only the definition running animal, alongside running water and so forth as species of running entities. That would be a misidentification of the essential trait of man. It would be an objectively invalid concept, though not an objectively meaningless concept. Such a concept is assessable for validity. It is assessable for contradiction with reality, including contradiction with other concepts warranted by reality in the present context of knowledge. That is to say, such a concept is objectively meaningful, though it is objectively invalid.
  5. I’d say the asking and finding of why and how is at the core of reason provide it is taken as understood that reason is always with a body and brain with a living developmental history and within a social context of coordination and training during in its development. However, I’d also stress observation, and by that I mean more than just a perceptual apprehension along one’s way. I mean a centered deliberate attention to something in perception (or thought) or how to get a new perception of that sort. There is a stage of the crawling infant, before any language acquisition, in which the infant cannot make visual observations while crawling. He or she crawls a bit, then stops and looks, then resumes crawling. Those self-world and inter-human observations of the infant are part of its growing package of reason, I’d say. Of course, it’s with languaged observations and languaged pursuits of why and how that we have full-blown reason. But at this fuller stage, I’d still want to stress the factor of observation and add the factor of reason thinking about itself. It needs to get to know what it can reasonably expect of itself. I don’t know how self-conscious they were about it, but the Babylonian observations of the paths and times of certain things in the heavens, their recording of those things and trying to fit mathematical schemes capturing those recurrences was not much pursuit of how and why. But it was within their ability in that culture, and it attained a better picture of the surface-what, which could be helpful later to other astronomy folk in more advanced cultures trying (sometimes terribly prematurely) to get somewhere with the how and why. Back when I first read Atlas Shrugged (while in college, but on the side), 10 years after it was first published, I formulated a saying for myself: “to reason is to question.” That’s fine if that is understood to mean that questioning is essential to reason, but not so hot if it is understood to mean that anything passing for a grammatically correct question can pass for an episode of reason. I do rather like Rand’s definition of reason as the faculty of identifying and integrating the evidence of the senses. I’d note, however, that our reason we put to work in pure mathematics is circumscribed by that definition in only a nebulous way. Also, the definition is on its face too much setting us pondering the givens in perception as merely evidence to use in winning our way to the real physical world, when really that is not her full picture of our way with the world and our blend of thought and action.
  6. William, looking through the "Look Inside" Table of Contents and text available from that first book, by the psychology professor, it looks like a large compendium of human errors, conceptually and scientifically amenable to analysis and discovery of their mechanisms. Starting with the second chapter, that is. In that, it seems like Dennis (Ninth) is right. However, the first chapter does seem to parade some all-too-common irrationalities that it suggests will be explained by the material in the succeeding chapters. I don't know if the book does fulfill that, and it is indeed unclear from what is shown whether the author regards the irrationalities such as murderous religiosity as anything more than deterministic errors. Also, I don't catch anything about rational belief such as our belief that the moon illusion is an illusion. In fact, he just seems to wave his hand, saying surely no one could believe the moon could be actually a larger size near the horizon. But what about people 25,000 years ago? They had natural language like us, but not our accumulated exploration, science, and mathematics. I don't see why they would not just presume the moon changes its size in the way it visually appears to change. I've taken a photograph of the rising moon before with my camera. It's marvelous largeness in our eyes is just not there in the photo. The largeness and marvelousness are not there in the photo. We have rational methods of investigating illusions. Not only in how they come about, but for determining that they ARE an illusion in the first place. Offhand, it does not look like this book stresses, if it addresses it at all, that we have rational beliefs and methods and why THEY are so compelling.
  7. “The process of a child’s development consists of acquiring knowledge, which requires the development of his capacity to grasp and deal with an ever-widening range of abstractions. This involves the growth of two interrelated but different chains of abstractions, two hierarchical structures of concepts, which should be integrated, but seldom are: the cognitive and the normative. The first deals with knowledge of the facts of reality—the second, with the evaluation of these facts. The first forms the epistemological foundation of science—the second, of morality and art.” (Rand 1965a, 10) --quote in my From Integrity to Calculus , Rand tells the religionist: “Whenever you committed the evil of refusing to think and to see, of exempting from the absolute of reality some one small wish of yours, whenever you chose to say: Let me withdraw from the judgment of reason . . . the existence of God, let me have my one irrational whim and I will be a man of reason about all else—that was the act of subverting your consciousness, the act of corrupting your mind” (1037). Rand was not opposed to feelings. She was not against the idea of the human soul, provided it is thought of as naturally part of one’s living body and mortal as one’s body. In Fountainhead she has dialogue between Keating and his wife Dominique in which soul is given the expressly nonreligious meaning: that in one that is one’s genuine person—not only one’s body—one’s will and meaning, that in one which independently thinks, values, decides, and feels (GW II 454–55; cf. 1957, 1057). -- from my Mysticism - Kant and Rand (Part 1 -Reason) . When philosophers lay out theories of good definition, they are theories of an explicative kind of definition (see David Kelley’s Art of Reasoning, chapter 3). Consider Rand’s definition of reason as the faculty that identifies and integrates the evidence of the senses. In my dictionary, I find reason defined as the capacity for rational thought, rational inference, or rational discrimination. The terms rational and thought go to already familiar synonymies with reason. The differentia within the rational, in this dictionary definition, are the discriminatory and the inferential. Rand’s definition stays close to the common usage reflected by the dictionary, but it replaces discrimination and inference by their kin identification and integration, it eliminates the non-explicative rational, and it adds a base for the activities of reason, specifically, deliverances of the senses. Rand’s definition is explanatory of the common usage found in the dictionary, and it is tailored to tie neatly to a particular wider philosophical view. Quine could say this is a fine explicative type of definition. Rand has given the term reason a new synonymy. The various contexts in which reason under the dictionary definition is properly used remain contexts in which reason under the new, explicative definition is properly used. The new definition covers the processes of drawing distinctions and making inferences. The new definition also applies to the wider processes of identification and integration of sensory evidence, processes in which the narrower processes are embedded. --from my On Quine's "Two Dogmas" PS - Welcome to Objectivism Online.
  8. Test of Stochastic Collapse-of-the-Wave-Function Models Probing the Quantum Interface with the Classical and How the Q-Regime yields the C-Regime Quantum Optomechanics with Photonic Crystals
  9. Bill, There is an article about Noether and the continuing importance of her results for modern physics in the June 23, 2018 issue of Science News. This report includes her work as pertinent to general relativity. I am familiar with her work from my background in physics. Philosophers of physics know her work and write about it sometimes in scientifically informed articles or books on ontology. I see there is a nice fairly recent review article on her work and particle physics here. Stephen
  10. SL, Where I've mentioned Merlin Jetton, I was saying something about his views, but in any posts that I've not expressly mentioned his position(s) in his JARS (#35) paper, "what is being proposed" are my own criticisms of Rand's ethical theory, and probably have only some overlap with his thinking. (I do not agree with all the views he express in the article; if someone else reads it, perhaps we can discuss it.) I've bandied these criticisms of mine (with examples) about these Objectivist-type public posting sites a few years now. These are 'old hat' to me, and none include what I develop further upon them in my book in progress (which I'll leave secret). By the way, in the 1990's, in my philosophy journal Objectivity, I never wrote anything concerning my ethical differences with Rand, although I think their onset was in the early '80's. (I began reading Rand in 1967, my copy of The Virtue of Selfishness is the paperback Signet one, the pages are often separated from the binding, they are yellow and crumbling at the edges, and I hope no words of it go missing before I myself go missing. Economy, after all.) Rand and I concur that to significant extent, one can choose whether one will make someone else's benefit the primary motive of one's action or make one's own benefit the primary motive of one's action. Her view and argument was that it should always be the latter. Because I disagree with that uniformity, I'd say my disagreement with Rand in this area is a matter of broad principle, not disagreements in complexities of application. Then too, my own theory, presumably eventuating in a combination of the former and the latter alternatives, will be from a systematic viewpoint, stemming from my fundamental metaphysics and my portrait of the nature of life per se and of the life constituting human consciousness; and this circumstance too, inclines me to say my disagreement with Rand in this area is a difference of broad principle. I'm out of the present discussion. I've other things I need to think on. I hope some readers at this site will obtain the copy of JARS with Merlin's paper, and I hope this thread will not become useless as a thread for announcements concerning Objectivism in academia through inundation of other sorts of posts, excellent as these posts ensuing my announcement and taste of the Jetton paper have been.
  11. In Rand's egoism, the aimed-for beneficiary of every action should be oneself. Not only the aimed-for beneficiary in organizing one's life as a whole. If one aids a Steven Mallory, it should be for the potential of a value one wants to see in the world. It should be for the joy one experiences in seeing such artworks and the joy one takes in the company of such creators in the world. It is one's own experiences and joys that should be the aim of such an action, not firstly the interests, potential achievements and experiences of Mr. Mallory himself. All proper examined values should be in relation to oneself as beneficiary, on Rand's view, although she would have the normal, healthy constitution of oneself significantly include need for self-visibility through certain others: Visibility.
  12. New at Check Your Premises: How Should Philosophy Professors Approach Ayn Rand by Greg Salimieri
  13. SL, None of us want to get sidetracked from your original honest questions. Talk of injustice was part of Rand's answer, but her answer to your questions are crystal clear. She did not think it right to have as motive for your actions the benefit that accrues from the action to persons other than you the agent. I suspect that you disagree with that view of hers. I gather Merlin disagrees with it. I disagree with it, have often said so, and speaking only for myself, I count it as a serious suspicion one should have of the possible complete correctness of any authentic ethical egoism whatever, from Socrates to Rand. I applaud that long string of philosophers who have made a valiant effort to justify all moral virtues on the basis of self-interest. It is a worthwhile effort and has shown the great extent to which moral virtues ARE justifiable by purely self-interest. Moreover, for my own part, I enthusiastically agree with Rand on the virtue(s) of selfishness. I agree with her there are things rightly condemned as wrong and wrongly called selfish. I agree with her that there are things rightly called selfish and wrongly condemned as wrong. But that does not amount to ethical egoism, not as the sincere challenge has been sincerely taken on from Socrates to Rand. EVERY moral virtue must stand on the rationale of purely self-interest in all the settings for moral virtue in any theory of moral egoism with no tap dancing. And in this effort, Rand did not distract or confuse or water down. She went for a real ethical egoism.
  14. SL, There is a scene in The Fountainhead in which the narrator lays out the sort of third-party situation you describe. It’s upshot, it has struck me, is that when the outside pressure to help your fellow man is lifted, as it is lifted in the mind of Roark, then men feel a natural benevolence towards each other. This narrative is at the opening of Roark’s ultimate court trial, in which Rand will give him an extended soliloquy to lay out her main positive message of the book. However, I think you are mistaken concerning the passage Merlin quoted from the Introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness. She means exactly what she wrote there, full tilt. She makes clear there that she is not assuming at the outset of argumentation that “the proper beneficiary of moral values” is oneself. That is not a moral primary in her view, rather, “it has to be derived from and validated by the fundamental premises of a moral system” (x). She takes her argument in “The Objectivist Ethics” to have shown that “man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions. / . . . Since all values have to be gained and/or kept by men’s actions, any breach between actor and beneficiary necessitates an injustice . . . . Nothing could ever justify such a breach, and no one ever has” (ix). From “The Objectivist Ethics” ~ “Man’s life is a continuous whole. . . . ‘Man’s survival qua man’ means the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence open to his choice. / Man has to be man by choice—and it is the task of ethics to teach him how to live like man. / The Objectivist ethics holds man’s life as the standard of value—and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.” (24–25) “It is only on the basis of rational selfishness—on the basis of justice—that men can be fit to live together in a free, peaceful, prosperous, benevolent, rational society. / Can man derive any personal benefit from living in a human society? Yes—if it is a human society.” (32)
  15. ***** Split from Objectivism in Academia ***** The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies is in its eighteenth year of publication (Penn State University Press). It issues twice a year, July and December. I have all its issues, hardcopy, from its beginning. I’ve mentioned elsewhere on Objectivism Online an extensive review, in the July 2018 issue, of Harry Binswanger’s book How We Know. I notice also in this issue a paper “Egoism and Others” by Merlin Jetton, a long-time friend of mine. In his contribution “Egoism and Others,” Jetton draws Rand’s ethical egoism as an extreme position, polar opposite the extreme altruistic ethics of Comte. That sketch seems right. But Jetton writes “Contra Rand, one can benefit others without self-sacrifice” (85). I don’t think that statement in itself is an exact representation of Rand. She characterizes voluntary productive, romantic, and esthetic relationships as benefitting both self and others. Jetton later tempers that statement on Rand, thankfully, in his addressing for example her ambitious essay “The Conflict of Mens’ Interests.” Jetton conveys altruism as taking various forms. Rand’s notion of altruism, he correctly takes as entailing self-sacrifice. He maintains that Rand disdained altruism in any form and that this stance “may actually detract from a person’s self-interest” (85). “Rand advocated self-interest all the time and typically treated acting for the interest of others as equivalent to self-sacrifice” (86). Correct. Jetton concurs with Rand’s stance that one should not live for the sake of another. Contra Rand, he writes: “Acting for the sake of another is sometimes the rational thing to do” (87). I concur, and I concur that this is contra Rand (notwithstanding denials or fogging of this ascription to Rand by some sympathizers with Rand’s egoism). Jetton observes that among our choices of action, there are ones “you might agree that anyone similarly disposed would have in such circumstances” (87). He dips into a work by Charles Larmore, a former professor of mine, in filling out this idea. From the reflective plane of regarding ourselves as responding to reasons and binding ourselves to reasons, Jetton goes on to gauge the morality of benefitting others in business, familial, fiduciary, governmental, and charitable relationships, marking up Rand’s pertinent words all along the way. An additional basic frame of Rand’s ethical egoism I think would be worth examining in future examinations and assessments along the lines of Jetton’s present study is her proposition “Life is an end in itself.” This is a basic frame not only for her ethical egoism, but for her case for universal individual rights. And the latter, with their justification, could have fertile ramifications for treatment of others, even going beyond scope of the law.
  16. I’d forgotten all about that, Ninth. This speculation of Ron Merrill is on pages 61-62 of his book The Ideas of Ayn Rand (1991). It is disappointing to learn from Merrill that, in the Talmudic account, Sodom was not destroyed for the sodomy in the town. I’d hoped we’d find out some day what sexual inventions had caught on over at Gomorrah. By Merrill’s report on the Talmud, these cities were destroyed on account of collectivism, and in the case of Sodom, for “placing envy and equality above benevolence and justice.” I didn’t find Ron’s speculation on some fun he thought Rand was having in placing some parallel particulars with the S&G tale in her story of the strike and withdrawal of good people to the Colorado refuge. In Ayn Rand Explained (2013, 120), Marsha Enright also did not find this speculation of Ron’s likely correct from his evidence brought forth.
  17. Of related interest: In May of 1964, Rand wrote a letter to Prof. John O. Nelson at the University of Colorado. The letter includes the following paragraph: “I must mention that Galt’s Gulch is not an organized society, but a private club whose members share the same philosophy. It exemplifies the basic moral principles of social relationships among rational men, the principles on which a proper political system should be built. It does not deal with questions of political organization, with the details of a legal framework needed to establish and maintain a free society open to all, including dissenters. It does not deal with specifically political principles, only with their moral base. (I indicate that the proper political framework is to be found in the Constitution, with its contradictions removed.)” Letters of Ayn Rand, Michael Berliner, editor (1995, 626) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Also relevant: "Small and large organizations support themselves in entirely different ways. The theory [Olson's] indicates that, though small groups can act to further their interest much more easily than large ones, they will tend to devote too few resources to the satisfaction of their common interests, and that there is a surprising tendency for the 'lesser' members of the small group to exploit the 'greater' members by making them bear a disproportionate share of the burden of any group action." From the publisher, concerning Mancur Olson's The Logic of Collective Action.
  18. . There is a stimulating substantive review of Harry Binswanger's How We Know in the July 2018 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The review is 41 pages. The author is Robert L. Campbell, and he brings to this artful engagement wide acquaintance with the theoretical philosophy of Ayn Rand as well as his knowledge of pertinent cognitive psychology, which is his profession. http://www.aynrandstudies.com/Subscriptions.html
  19. There is an example of feeble thinking Rand gives that seems to me to be an excellent case of what she called ‘floating abstraction’ though she doesn’t call that out in her presentation of this case. That example is a use of the abstraction ‘truth’. I want to quote three paragraphs before that truth-paragraph too. I think her concern expressed here fits the weight of attention Objectivist writers, including Rand, have tended to give to everyday trip-ups by floating abstraction, in comparison to diagnoses of floating abstraction in the ‘castles-in-the-air’ of Rationalist philosophers. “There is an old fable which I read in Russian . . . . A pig comes upon an oak tree, devours the acorns strewn on the ground and, when his belly is full, starts digging the soil to undercut the oak tree’s roots. A bird perched on a high branch upbraids him, saying: ‘If you could lift your snoot, you would discover that the acorns grow on this tree’. “In order to avoid that pig’s role in the forest of the intellect, one must know and protect the metaphysical-epistemological tree that produces the acorns of one’s convictions, goals and desires. And, conversely, one must not gobble up any brightly colored fruit one finds, without bothering to discover that it comes from a deadly yew tree. If laymen did no more than learn to identify the nature of such fruit and stop munching it or passing it around, they would stop being the victims and the unwary transmission belts of philosophical poison. But a minimal grasp of philosophy is required in order to do it. “If an intelligent and honest layman were to translate his implicit, common-sense rationality (which he takes for granted) into explicit philosophical premises, he would hold that the world he perceives is real (existence exists), that things are what they are (the Law of Identity), that reason is the only means of gaining knowledge and logic is the method of using reason. Assuming this base, let me give you an example of what a philosophical detective would do with some . . . catch phrases. “‘It may be true for you, but it’s not true for me’. What is the meaning of the concept ‘truth’: Truth is the recognition of reality. . . . The same thing cannot be true and untrue at the same time and in the same respect. That catch phrase, therefore, means: a. that the Law of Identity is invalid; b. that there is no objectively perceivable reality, only some indeterminate flux which is nothing in particular, i.e., that there is no reality (in which case there is no such thing as truth); or c. that the two debaters perceive two different universes (in which case no debate is possible).” (“Philosophical Detection” – 1974) Harry Binswanger points out in How We Know that definitions are the main help in remembering what is the hierarchy of one's concepts which though validly structured in the past, may have faded (214). Rand invokes definitions in the preceding detection.
  20. ET, I agree about the deceit in that example used by B. Branden. It came up very prominently again this year, with the big spending bill following on the tax cuts. It would be often claimed that, well, the tax cuts (and regulation removals) would be so tremendous, the economy would boom so much, and the income tax receipts would be so great that there won’t be a deficit. It sounded to me very much like a sop thrown to those really concerned with a balanced budget, a smokescreen for what had really been decided: the interest in a balanced budget lost to other interests, and more debt is the reality. My inclination on your closing question would be: both. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d become a Christian Socialist. That was for the simple reason that I’d concluded that private property should be abolished because it allowed people to be selfish, and selfishness was wrong. Altruism was right, and it was the focus of what moral virtue consisted of. But if such a young man were willing to really begin to cash out all those ideas and ideals in terms of practical reality and practical connection to other ideals also held (such as individual liberty), they begin to wither as ideals.
  21. Invictus, where you say “random associations” wouldn’t it be enough to just say “associations”? If I understand you correctly, your contrast is with rational derivations and cognitive connections to reality, especially concrete perceptual reality, and that sort of derivation and connection is in contrast to associations even if we can see the association is not random. I mean our most basic meaning of the concept ‘breakfast’ could sensibly be “meal following pretty closely a pretty full sleep.” One could have associations with ‘breakfast’ such as what kinds of foods are typical at that meal or the association of ‘breakfast’ with its typically being in the morning. We can see why those associations get attached, they’re not random, and it’s enough to contrast associative connections with reasoned ones. I take it that when you talk of adopting a concept from others, you mean adopting it without understanding it very far. I can get a square concept of ‘mineral’ from geology class. Your analysis strikes me as landing pretty well on Rand’s concept of a ‘floating abstraction’. I mention Rand because this error and its name were formulated by her. She gets a monopoly on it, so to speak. Similarly, with Whitehead and the fallacy of ‘misplaced concreteness’. With the general, long-standard fallacies and their names, such as the fallacy of ‘hasty generalization’, there too, it’s good to stay fixed on the exact concept defined and not simply presume what it is that the name is suggesting without official definition. I mention this for all of us.
  22. STEPHEN - Yes, the Berkeley idea seems the same, but in other terms. And a lot of Objectivist types when thinking about the nature of mathematics come down rather like Berkeley. I disagree with them both on the mathematical situation. We do have physical applications of complex numbers. But we did not have any such applications (i.e., physical structures known to coincide with the structure of complex numbers) at the time complex numbers were first thought up. They were never ungrounded in rationally grasped realities, even before physical application was found for them. And there are other things mathematically sensible that to this day we’ve found no physical instantiation of, and perhaps there is no such instantiation. Rand wrote against the idea of a system of free-market private protective agencies replacing government in the primary functions of the latter: “Nor can one call it a floating abstraction, since it is devoid of any contact with or reference to reality and cannot be concretized at all, not even roughly or approximately.” Here she seemed to think of floating abstractions as having some weak connection to reality. Although, presumably, that could still leave them of limited use and even detrimental for knowledge. On the NOT side, it occurs to me that I’ve NOT noticed any Objectivist writings taking Platonic Ideas as floating abstractions. The fact that such Ideas have regular relations to concretes may perhaps be enough to save them from being the sleaze of floating abstractions, even though we do not obtain them by abstraction from concretes perceived by the senses. In the 1960’s while articulating Objectivism, together with Rand and others, Barbara Branden gave a lecture series called “Principles of Efficient Thinking.” Therein she spoke in a kind of psychological-type way of persons who characteristically think in terms of floating abstractions. She said they don’t see the trees for the forest. There’s “nothing in his head but floating abstractions—that is, abstractions which he’s unable to concretize, which he believes, without any idea of what they would actually mean in reality. / An example of this kind of thinking is a meeting at which a political candidate declares that he stands for a balanced budget, decreased taxes, and increased government spending; and his audience bursts into applause. No one who understood concretely what these abstractions meant could possibly applaud. / A man who holds floating abstractions understands words not in terms of what they denote, but in terms of what they connote. Words connote things to him. They call up pleasant or unpleasant emotions, associations, memories. They suggest; they do not denote. His abstractions float in space, untied to meanings, to facts, to reality.” (Transcribed on p. 178 of the book THE VISION OF AYN RAND.) In the 1980’s Leonard Peikoff gave a lecture series called “Understanding Objectivism.” I notice there that he thought of Leibniz, and presumably Rationalists more generally as dealing in floating abstractions (which is rather the idea you get of Rand’s view of Rationalism in her “For the New Intellectual” even though she doesn’t use the name ‘floating abstraction’ there so far as I’ve found). Peikoff mentions a type of psychosis “which has some elements of being concrete-bound, and has some elements of floating abstractions (certain schizophrenics will build castles in the air), but still they are crazy, and Leibniz wasn’t.” (Transcribed on p. 265 of the book UNDERSTANDING OBJECTIVISM.) The quotation on floating abstractions you found in Peikoff’s OPAR is helpful. Thanks. There he seems to be back to thinking about persons not very philosophical in their thinking. (Cf. Rand’s ITOE 75-76; also p. 214 of Harry Binswanger’s HOW WE KNOW.) Gregory Salmieri maintains that floating abstractions are one possible result of not taking the dependency relations of concepts into one’s thinking. He seemed to have in mind the dependency chain of concepts ultimately to “first-level concepts” (presumably elementary concepts of kinds of concretes ordinary in perception). “A floating abstraction is a concept that has become detached in one’s mind from its basis in perception and has therefore lost its meaning (Peikoff 1991, 96).” (p. 71 in CONCEPTS AND THEIR ROLE IN KNOWLEDGE – REFLECTIONS ON OBJECTIVIST EPISTEMOLOGY.)
  23. FELLOW - Do you think that, without God to ground these other ways the world could have been, that such conjecture would be reduced to floating abstractions? / That said, if we could return more specifically to the topic of floating abstractions, I still suspect that I do not have a firm grasp on what they are. Peikoff, in OPAR, defines a floating abstraction specifically as "['Floating abstraction'] is Ayn Rand's term for concepts detached from existents, concepts that a person takes over from other men without knowing what specific units the concepts denote. A floating abstraction is not an integration of factual data; it is a memorized linguistic custom representing in the person's mind a hash made of random concretes, habits, and feelings that blend imperceptibly into other hashes which are the content of other, similarly floating abstractions. The 'concepts' of such a mind are not cognitive devices. They are parrotlike imitations of language backed in essence by patches of fog" (96). With this in mind, I take it that floating abstractions are not cognitively meaningless, since they will derive meaning from “random concretes, habits, and feelings” (perhaps use as well?) even though they have no objective referent. So, a floating abstraction does not have an objective referent, I gather—which I might put in other terms by saying that the concept does not refer to anything with ontic status. Peikoff seems to want to say that these are concepts in name only—inauthentic concepts—which cannot be put to any use in attaining knowledge. A system of floating abstractions might then be said to constitute a mere game of language. I am reminded of Bishop Berkeley’s remarks about theoretical mathematics, as opposed to applied, “The Theories therefore in Arithmetic, if they are abstracted from the Names and Figures, as likewise from all Use and Practice, as well as from the particular things numbered, can be supposed to have nothing at all for their Object. Hence we may see, how entirely the Science of Numbers is subordinate to Practice, and how jejune and trifling it becomes, when considered as a matter of mere Speculation” (Principles, §120)—regardless of whether you think he is correct, he seems to me to speak of floating abstractions, just in his own terms.
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